By: Alexander Jue, Policy Analyst
What does two-generation learning mean and how has it been implemented in the District? How do public schools establish themselves as the center of their communities? During a recent visit to Briya Public Charter School’s Fort Totten campus, I had the opportunity to witness this two-generation learning approach, as well as see the additional community and social services provided through the school’s partnership with Mary’s Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center community health center in the District.
- Two-generation learning – Briya’s mission is to strengthen families through culturally responsive two-generation education. At Briya, parents and their young children learn together. Parents study English—from basic to advanced levels—and practice digital literacy and parenting skills. At the same time, their Pre-K–3 and Pre-K–4 children, as well as infants and toddlers, receive a high-quality early education in dual-language, project-based classes right across the hall. Parents and children also participate in intentional weekly Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time.
- Briya and Mary’s Center partnership – For nearly 20 years, Briya and Mary’s Center have partnered closely to provide education, health care, and social services for families. Through this partnership—and their shared philosophy of social change—Briya and Mary’s Center exemplify how a public school can serve as the hub for a community.
During my visit to Briya, I was able to tour the recently renovated school building and ask questions during a panel discussion. During the tour, I worked alongside a small group of adult students in an Intermediate/Advanced English class as they played a game and combined sentences. For the first six weeks of this school year, the focus of the Intermediate/Advanced English class is to have adult students use a growth mindset when speaking about their English abilities. Directly across the hall from the adult student classes were infant and toddler classrooms—one of which was filled with caretakers who previously went through Briya’s adult education program. The tour also included seeing some of Briya’s lobby spaces, which feature a family “book nook” and a series of clear backpacks with age-appropriate educational materials for parents and families to use. In the Pre-K classes I visited, each project-based classroom was filled with eager children and two teachers (i.e., one Spanish-speaking and one English-speaking teacher).
The panel discussion featured Briya’s Executive Director Christie McKay, Director of Early Childhood Strategy Lisa Luceno, and Director of Adult Education Elizabeth Bowman, as well as a Mary’s Center counselor and two adult students. The conversation was robust, with both adult students sharing passionate stories on their time at Briya and the school’s two-generation learning program. One spoke of how much her English has improved and how she is able to help other Spanish-speaking parents in her community navigate the education system in the District.
Briya enrolls 650 students across four campuses in the District (Wards 1, 4, and 5). The school is ranked by the DC Public Charter School Board as a Tier 1 high-performing school for both its adult education and Pre-K programs. In a Brookings Institution study from 2015, researchers found that Briya/Mary’s Center students performed better than other D.C. early education and K–12 schools and identified “the hub’s approach of providing a range of education services to parents alongside their young children as a particular important strategy.” Briya’s model has also been featured in the Washington Post (article here).
As schools and communities continue to think about how educational services extend to all ages of learners, what types of educational models ensure meaningful parental and family engagement, and how to best integrate social services into educational campuses, the Briya and Mary’s Center partnership offers an attractive option for District parents.
**Thank you to Charter Board Partners, CityBridge Education, Education Forward DC, and Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS) for hosting this First Fridays learning tour. Launched in 2011, First Fridays is a series of monthly learning tours that spotlight charter schools across the District—highlighting the high-performing and high-potential charter schools in our city. For more information about First Fridays, visit www.firstfridaysdc.org.